Monday, December 22, 2008

The Football Gods Must Be Crazy

Has everyone picked up the pieces yet? Good lord, Sundays like yesterday almost make me glad my San Francisco 49ers have been awful for so long. Really. A come-from-behind, 17-16 win over the 2-13 St. Louis Rams that was too ugly to watch made Niner fans one of the few such bases smiling when the dust settled.

SF sits at 6-9 and it looks like even the Yorks can't scuttle the ship that Mike Singletary seems to have righted. No playoffs this year, but things finally look to be headed in the right direction at Candlestick.

The rest of the National Football League though? That's where the gods went to work.

They reached down and absolved Bill Belichick of his past sins while confirming Brett Favre's. By sending a snow storm to Seattle in Ol' Bert's luggage, they opened the postseason door for the New England Patriots and virtually slammed it shut on the New York Jets.

If you believe that truth outs, the football gods just said Spygate was much ado about nothing. Why?

Because there was a snowstorm in Seattle in December. Because Brett Favre has not won on the West Coast in 2008 against the offal of the NFL. Because the Pats only need a Miami loss in New Jersey in December and a win against the lowly Buffalo Bills (a team that has yet to win in its division) to cartwheel into the playoffs. Because the Pats might just qualify for the second season after losing Tom Brady in game one. Because New England has done it while relying on a quarterback who hadn't started since high school.

Hey, I'm with the football gods on this one.

My coaches always told us that, in sports, if you're not cheating, you're not trying hard enough. Obviously, this is a bit tongue-in-cheek. No one would advocate the substance abuse and other extremes to which some athletes take this maxim, but there is a kernel of truth. This is SPORTS, not life-or-death.

The man was looking for an advantage in a GAME and got caught. Oops. And it's not like whatever info that was on the tape was the sole reason for the win. It certainly helped, but not as much as players' effort.

Furthermore, if you think all these games are decided on the complete level, you don't know very much about the competitive drive that powers these athletic juggernauts. Most of the owners, general managers, coaches, and players want to win at all costs. That includes bending a rule here or there.

What was I talking about? Oh yeah, the football gods.

The Jets, on the other hand, found themselves on the opposite end of the gods' favor. And they can thank the OLD Gunslinger.

Ol' Bert has almost completed his total regression from midseason hero. It started with several inexplicable losses, gathered momentum (or rather Favre gave it some) when the annual retirement talk surfaced, and reached a crescendo against the Seahawks. He got thoroughly outplayed by Seneca Wallace in conditions that Favre supposedly lives for.

Now, only a win over Miami at home can give New York even a glimmer of hope. But it's a really, really faint glimmer.

They'd need the Pats to lose in Buffalo, which is possible and highly unlikely. Or they'd need the Baltimore Ravens to lose at home to the Jacksonville Jaguars with a trip to the playoffs on the line. Raise your hand if you think Ray Lewis and Ed Reed allow that to happen.

Me neither.

I bet Favre ends the season on a high note at home to deliver his adoring (and somewhat delusional) fans another winning season full of pretty numbers to worship. Another totally empty winning season full of pretty numbers where he choked away the things of real importance to a team.

The football gods were not through.

Before leaving the American Football Conference, they cursed the Denver Broncos at home with a loss to those Bills in a battle that saw Jay Cutler and company holding a 13-0 lead at one point. In Tampa Bay, they blessed the San Diego Chargers with a win against a Buccaneers team that had not lost a game at home in 2008. Their handiwork set up a pillow fight in San Diego for all the marbles in the AFC West and a first-round playoff exit.

The Tampa Bay-San Diego Charger game must have tickled the football gods, must have showed them all the mischievous potential of the National Football Conference.

When the country went to sleep Saturday night, the Dallas Cowboys were a cooked Christmas goose, complete with fork.

When we went to sleep Sunday night, the Dallas Cowboys were back behind the wheel of their playoff destiny. Wait, what?

It took the aforementioned and improbable win by San Diego on the road in Tampa. It took an equally inexplicable loss by the white-hot Philadelphia Eagles against a bumbling Washington Redskins squad. What's more, that Eagle loss required a game-saving tackle on at the goal line as the final seconds ticked away and the Iggles' postseason flatlined.

The result was a blessing for the 'pokes, who just sent Texas Stadium into the sunset by beating the arena to spectacular implosion.

There was also the Atlanta Falcons, who went on the road to beat the Minnesota Vikings in a game that saw a Matt Ryan fumble become an Atlanta touchdown. That's not so remarkable except the game also saw the Vikings fumble seven times - SEVEN!


And there's still another week of the regular season.

So put on your hard hats, NFL fans. If yesterday was any indication, this Sunday should be raining Coke bottles.

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